“I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:9)
Once I was asked to give a graduation address to some men who, after leaving prison, had joined an intensive program to change their lives.
Before giving the address, I spent an afternoon with those who would be graduating. I wanted to know who they were, where they had come from, what had changed in their lives, and how they felt about leaving the program.
After listening to them, I knew that the text I needed to use for the address was today’s scripture. Just as Joshua and the Jews needed to hear God say, “Be strong and courageous” at the edge of the Promised Land, these graduates needed to hear his same message at the edge of their new life.
I told the graduates they could “be strong and courageous” if they remembered and held fast to four truths.
First, understand that they are beloved children of God. Second, trust that they are never alone. Third, remember that they are not their past. Fourth, believe that God has a mission for them.
At the reception following the graduation, a supporter of the program said, “Although I have never been to jail, and although I have a good and successful life, and although I have never had substance abuse or mental health issues, I sometimes lose my way and become afraid. I will use the four truths you talked about as my North, South, East, and West compass points to keep me oriented and strong.”
Whether we’re poised before some new Promised Land or whether we’re doing our best to simply “keep on keeping on,” we can all lose our way and become afraid and disoriented. When we do, we need some compass points.
Today I encourage us to hear God’s message to Joshua. When we remember the four truths—we are God’s child; we are never alone; we aren’t our past; we have a mission—we can indeed be Strong and Courageous, no matter what set-backs we have had, no matter what mistakes we have made, and no matter what challenges we are facing.
- How do the four “truths” that I shared with the graduates of the program speak to you?
- How do you get oriented, focused, and motivated when you get lost, overwhelmed, or discouraged?
- Where or how do you need to hear God’s words to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous, do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go?”